Supreme Court Cites Mass Shooting in Buffalo in Decision to Remove New York Guns Law

In a long-awaited decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday lifted New York State’s restrictions against the concealed carrying of firearms in public by a 6-3 vote.

Majority opinion, written by Clarence Thomas, believes that a New York gun law that would impose a wave of demands on residents to carry guns in public violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law. The majority ruled that the New York law was unconstitutional “to prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and carry weapons in public for self-defense.” To be licensed to carry a gun, New Yorkers must have no criminal record, be over 21, be of “good moral character” and have “good reasons” for getting a gun, according to the report. The Washington Post.

“In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry guns in public for self-defense. We also agree, and are now in agreement with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect a person’s right to carry a gun for self-defense outdoors,” Thomas wrote. “Because New York State only issues public permits when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the state’s licensing system violates the Constitution.”

As Judge Samuel Alito noted in a contemporaneous opinion, “The New York law at issue in this case clearly hasn’t stopped that preparation,” referring to the 18-year-old who shot and killed ten black people and injured three others in a racist outburst on a Tops supermarket in Buffalo last month.

The court’s three liberals voted to uphold the law, and Judge Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent over the decision. Breyer cautioned that because the lines between “can spend” and “will spend” systems are not always so clear, some of the “will spend” regulations may face successful challenges in the future.

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The case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, was originally brought by two men from Upstate New York whose permit-to-carry applications were denied by the state because they did not meet the state’s criteria for ” good reason’. Both men have argued that their Second Amendment rights have been violated as a result of the outcome.

In November, the Supreme Court held pleadings on the case. At the time, the court’s conservative majority was skeptical of New York’s restriction. Chief Justice John Roberts said U.S. citizens should not be required to demonstrate why they qualify for Second Amendment protections, suggesting the New York “proper cause” provision could overwhelm potential gun owners.

“You don’t have to say that if you’re looking for a license to speak on a street corner or whatever, that, you know, your speech is particularly important,” Roberts said. “So why in this case do you have to show, convince someone, that you have the right to exercise your Second Amendment right?”

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Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh bluntly asked, “Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area and want to be able to defend myself?”

The decision complements precedent established in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case in which the Supreme Court overturned a law in the District of Columbia banning handguns. But even as the city’s ban on small arms was made illegal, the court still left open the question of how the possession and sale of small arms could be regulated state by state. As the late Conservative Judge Antonin Scalia wrote that year, the constitution allows for a “variety of tools to combat that problem, including some measures that regulate pistols.”

The court’s ruling is likely to have significant implications for states with public transportation restrictions, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

It comes as the nation has been reeling from a spate of mass shootings in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and New York in recent weeks. Last month, an 18-year-old gunman who legally obtained a semi-atomic rifle killed 19 children and two adults in a school shooting at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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